McDonald's heads down South to debut 'clean' buttermilk chicken tenders

McDonald's wants to expand its chicken offerings — particularly the crispy, fried kind — using all white meat and no artificial flavors or preservatives.

The home of the Big Mac said Tuesday it has begun testing a new buttermilk chicken tender in North Carolina.

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders.
Source: McDonald's

The tenders are available in 138 restaurants across the Charlotte area and come with a new signature sauce that is "slightly tangy and sweet," according to McDonald's. The company did not say if the new sauce is also free of additives.

Last April, the Golden Arches relaunched its McNuggets without any artificial preservatives, but some people complained that the company's sauces still had additives.

"There are a lot of competitors in this market, and we wanted to play in that arena and expand our chicken offerings," Jeff Stanton, a North Carolina McDonald's owner, said in a statement.

Chicken has been a hot menu item for many non-chicken chains in recent years, with restaurants like Burger King, Taco Bell and Wendy's debuting a variety of chicken innovations.

The top 250 restaurant chains added some 481 new chicken items during the 12 months ended Dec. 31, according to research from Technomic's MenuMonitor. For comparison, only 269 new beef items were added during that same period.

These new products have been aimed at bolstering sluggish restaurant sales and traffic, which have plagued the industry.

McDonald's sales were boosted in 2015 by the launch of its Buttermilk Crispy Chicken sandwich. The nationwide rollout led to the company's first same-store sales increase in two years.

Chicken's popularity is only expected to grow as consumers continue to crave healthier, high-protein meat. Not to mention, a decade of high beef prices has made chicken more appetizing for companies' bottom lines.